President Obama used his State of the Union address to declare his determination to raise the U.S. minimum wage above 10 dollars. Wage policy in the rest of the world may surprise you.
WASHINGTON D.C. — President Barack Obama has called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, the centerpiece proposal in Tuesday's State of the Union address that focused on economic inequality in America.
Pointing out that the current minimum of $7.25 is nearly 20% lower in real spending power than it was 25 years ago, he urged legislators to support a bill that would bring the national rate to $10.10.
Republicans are on the record opposing any increase to the minimum wage. "When you raise the cost of something, you get less of it," Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, told a news conference.
But it might surprise you to learn that many other countries, including those considered more progressive than the U.S. on economic policy, don’t have any minimum wage. Norway, Sweden and Denmark, who consistently top the lists of happiest places to live, don’t have a standard minimum.
Map via Creative Commons
Even Germany, backbone of the European economy, has only just recently proposed to phase in an 8.50 euros ($11.6) an hour minimum by January 2017 because of demands from the center-left SPD during coalition negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Egypt’s interim military-led government announced last week that it would implement new minimum income regulations in an attempt to quell protesters demanding social justice, increasing it up to some $172 per month.
Iran’s figures are higher than those of Bulgaria and Romania, both EU member states ($2.1 per hour compared to $1.34 and $1.46 respectively), but the lowest, according to the official minimum wage rates of the UN members, is Uganda where workers can legally earn $0.01 hourly.
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A bean field in Kawanda, Uganda. Photo by CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture via Flickr
On the other end of the scale, the five countries with the highest hourly minimum wages are Australia ($16.88), Luxembourg ($14.24), Monaco ($12.83), France ($12.22), and Belgium ($11.69).
India has more than 1,200 different minimum wage policies, varying from state to state and sector to sector. According to website paycheck.in, the National Floor Level of Minimum Wage has been raised to $1.84 per day. Locally set in China, it ranges from $1.23 in the Guangxi province to $2.51 in Beijing.
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A star anise farm in Guangxi, China. Photo by fuzheado via Flickr
In Zimbabwe the minimum wage only applies for agricultural and domestic workers, and in South Africa, farm workers earn approximately $0.85 per hour. North Koreans average $2.5-5 a day while Latvia gives teenagers and those who work in dangerous conditions a higher rate ($3.01 compared to $2.63).
If Obama's proposed hike goes through, it will put the U.S. as the tenth highest minimum wage, edging the UK out of the top ten ($10.02), but the rise will only apply to future contracts, not those already in place.